Matthew 12:34 O generation of vipers, how can you,

KJV Verse: 

Matthew 12:34 O generation of vipers, how can ye, being evil, speak good things? for out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaketh.

Greek Verse: 

Literal Alternative: 

Offspring of snakes, how you empower yourselves to chatter noble things, being worthless? Because out of the abundance of the heart, the mouth has chattered. 

Interesting and Hidden Aspects: 

What is hidden here is that the "good" in this verse is a completely different Greek word than the one translated as  "good" in the previous verse. See this article explaining Christ's use of the different words for good and evil

"Generation of vipers" would probably be better translated as "offspring" or "the work" of "vipers" or "the treacherous."

In English, "can" is a helper verb, indicating a possibility and an ability. However, in ancient Greek, it indicated having the power or possibly a desire to accomplish something. The form here is one in which the subject acts on him or itself. This is someone empowering themselves. 

The verb "being" here is the participle form of "to be" in Greek. It means to have a certain characteristic or remain in a certain condition

The adjective translated as "evil" means "second-rate" or "worthless." This article explores it meaning in more detail.

The word translated as "speak" describes either a more casual form of speech ("prattle") and the speech of oracles ("proclaim"). It is speech that repeats something heard elsewhere, which is why Christ uses it to describe him own speech since he is relaying what he heard elsewhere.

The adjective translated as "good" means "useful", "worthwhile," and "of high quality. When it used as a noun, it is usually introduced with an article ("the"), but that doesn't happen here. See this article on the real Greek meaning of the terms translated as "good" and "evil."

The word translated as "for" can be treated as supporting a dependent clause, or, in written English, as "this is because..." to start a new sentence.

"Abundance" is an adjective used as a noun which means "superfluidity", "that which remains over," and "abundant."

"Heart" is the noun that means the physical heart and, in Greek, the seat of feelings, especially feelings that motivate action.

"Mouth" is the Greek word that means "mouth" and "the foremost part" of something. For example, the blade of a weapon is the same Greek word.

"Speaketh" is again from the verb used in describing "chatter" but here it is in a tense describing something begun in the past but not yet completed.

Greek Vocabulary: 

γεννήματα (noun pl neut voc) "O generation" is from gennema, which means "that which born or produced", "offspring", "fruits" (of the earth), generally, any "product" or "work", "breeding", "begetting," and "producing."

ἐχιδνῶν, (noun pl fem gen) "Vipers" is echidna, which means "viper", "constrictor snake," and is a metaphor for a treacherous wife or friend.

πῶς (pron indeclform) "How" is from pos, which means "how", "how in the world", "how then", "in any way", "at all", "by any mean", "in a certain way," and "I suppose."

δύνασθε (2nd pl pres ind mp) "Can ye" is the verb, dynamai, which means "to have power by virtue of your own capabilities", "to be able," and "to be strong enough."

ἀγαθὰ (adj pl neut acc) "Good things" is from agathos which means "good" and, when applied to people, "well-born", "gentle", "brave," and "capable." When applied to things, it means "serviceable", "morally good," and "beneficial."

λαλεῖν (verb pres inf) "Speak" is from laleo, which means "to talk", "to speak ", "to prattle", "to chat," and [for oracles] "to proclaim." It also means "chatter" as the opposite of articulate speech.

πονηροὶ (adj pl masc nom) "Evil" is from poneros, which we discuss extensively in this page. In a moral sense, it means "worthless", "base," and "cowardly."

ὄντες; (part pl pres act masc nom) "Being" is from eimi, which means "to be", "to exist", "to be the case," and "is possible." 

ἐκ (prep) "Out of" is from ek, which means 1) [of motion] "out of", "from", "by", "away from;" 2) [of place] "beyond", "outside of", "beyond;" 3) [of succession] "after", "from;" 4) [of rest] "on", "in," 5) [of time] "since", "from", "at", "in;" 5) [of materials] "out of", "made from."

γὰρ (partic) "For" comes from gar which is the introduction of a clause explaining a reason or explanation: "for", "since," and "as." In an abrupt question it means "why" and "what."

τοῦ περισσεύματος (noun sg neut gen) "The abundance" is from perisseuma, which means "superfluidity", "that which remains over," and "abundance." It is from the root, perissos , which means "exceeding some measure or rank."

τῆς καρδίας (noun sg fem) "Of heart" is from kardia, which means "heart (the physical organ)", "the seat of emotions (especially passion, rage, and anger)", "inclination", "desire, ""purpose", "mind", "the pith (in wood), and "the deep (of the sea)."

τὸ στόμα ” (noun sg neut nom) "The mouth" is stoma, which means "mouth", "the organ of speech", "speech", "utterance, ""any outlet or entrance," and "the foremost part" of something. For example, the blade or point of a weapon is a stoma.

λαλεῖ. ( 3rd sg imperf ind act) "Speaketh" is from laleo, which means "to talk", "to speak ", "to prattle", "to chat," and [for oracles] "to proclaim." It also means "chatter" as the opposite of articulate speech.

Wordplay: 

The juxtaposition of a word meaning "prattle" while describing it as "noble." 

Related Verses: 

Aug 1 2017